“Most senators aren't sheep.”Listen, I want the climate change crisis solved as much as anyone else does. At the same time, we can't force more Americans out of business during a slumping economy when there are more people that are unemployed than there are jobs available. The last thing we need right now is to send more Americans overseas.
That may go down as Sen. Evan Bayh's most famous quotation.
It certainly encapsulates President Barack Obama's dilemma in trying to get a climate-change bill through Congress: He doesn't have all the Democrats firmly on board.
Bayh made his much-quoted observation in the context of whether he would block a filibuster if the underlying bill were something he disagreed with. His point was that he would take the matter on a case-by-case basis.
But the Hoosier's warning about independence applies to climate-change legislation and is now underscored by a recent letter he and nine other Democratic senators sent to the White House.
Bayh is seen as a critical, and by no means sure, vote on energy and climate-change legislation.
“As Congress considers energy and climate legislation, it is important that such a bill include provisions to maintain a level playing field for American manufacturing,” the senators wrote. “We must not engage in a self-defeating effort that displaces greenhouse gas emissions rather than reducing them and displaces U.S. jobs rather than bolstering them. Domestic manufacturers and the workers they employ can and must play a vital role in our nation's clean energy future.”
Twice considered as a possible Democratic vice presidential running mate and nearly a candidate for president last time, Bayh is navigating tricky political terrain as he approaches seeking re-election to a third term next year.
Indiana depends on coal for electricity. And, while many people may not realize it, the state has coal mines, too.
Coal, of course, is a leading cause of carbon emissions, which are targeted in the climate legislation passed by the House.
Bayh recently told Politico that he is concerned that Americans not be asked to make sacrifices that other major industrial (and polluting) nations such as China and India will not make.
“To ask the people of my state and our country to go through a lot of changes without meeting the goal we're trying to accomplish is not a place where we want to end up,” Bayh said.
He and the nine other senators wrote Obama that “any climate change legislation must prevent the export of jobs and related greenhouse gas emissions to countries that fail to take actions to combat the threat of global warming comparable to those taken by the United States.”
Look for Bayh to continue to play a central role in the climate-change debate when the Senate takes up the issue this fall.
I trust that Evan Bayh is doing the right thing.